Balance is an interview series with creatives about how they find balance in their work and lives.
Last time on Balance, I talked about meeting Eric Maierson at the 2011 Mountain Workshops, and this time, I want to introduce you all to someone else I met at Mountain: Sara Lewkowicz. Most of you probably know Sara for her project, Shane and Maggie, about domestic violence. The project has garnered Sara a ton of recognition recently, including the 2013 Alexia Student Grant, 1st place in Contemporary Issues in World Press Photo and the 2013 Ville de Perpignan Remi Ochlik Award. Sara has been interviewed extensively about that project but I wanted to ask her to talk to us about balance, especially as someone who had to steadily chug along, working for about ten years before becoming a seemingly "overnight" sensation.
For people who don't know you, can you give a little bit of a background as to what your creative journey has been thus far?
Sara: I began taking photos when I was about 17, and was always primarily interested in photographing other human beings. Landscapes and flowers never did much for me. I was a journalism major with a focus in photography at UNC-Chapel Hill, then I freelanced fro a while and mainly supported myself waitressing for a number of years before I decided to pick up and move to Ohio to attend the visual communication program at Ohio University in Athens.
What are some of the challenges for you about doing creative work and what are some of the ways you've learned to overcome those challenges?
Sara: I think that my two main challenges are finding balance and not beating myself up mentally over every shot I *didn’t* make. It’s hard to remember that the work isn’t *you*. It’s just the work. You are so much more than the sum of the photos you’ve made. That’s where the idea of balance comes in, and making a real, concerted effort to do things that have absolutely nothing to do with shooting. I am trying to make more time for physical activity, make it as integral a part of my life as anything else, like brushing my teeth. It keeps me centered and grounded, and frankly, if I ever go shoot somewhere dangerous, it may very well keep me alive.
Why do you do what you do?
I do it for the girls and the drugs, man. Just kidding, I don’t know. I do it because there’s nothing else I can see myself doing without wanting to jump out a window.
What do you do to find balance in your life and/or why do you think it's important to find balance as a creative professional?
Sara: It’s really hard when you’re a creative professional, because you are literally making something, and consequently, you identify with it in such a visceral way. That fact can make it really hard to separate yourself, hear critique, and grow from it, instead of feeling totally hurt when someone has negative things to say. This is why, for me, it’s important to do lots of other stuff, have friends who aren’t photographers or editors, have identities that are not related to being a visual creative. On my worst days, when I hate every picture I’ve taken, I can at least be like, “Oh well, at least I can still roast a mean chicken/am an awesome dancer/ whatever.”